Actualidades en Psicología ISSN Impreso: 0258-6444 ISSN electrónico: 2215-3535

Conceptual relations: construct definition, neuroanatomical basis and ways of assessment
PDF (Español (España))


relaciones conceptuales
relaciones taxonómicas
relaciones temáticas
conocimiento conceptual
conceptual relations
taxonomic relations
thematic relations
conceptual knowledge

How to Cite

Vivas, L., & García Coni, A. (2013). Conceptual relations: construct definition, neuroanatomical basis and ways of assessment. Actualidades En Psicología, 27(114), 1–18.


The links that connect concepts are called conceptual relations. Two of them have particular relevance in the organization of conceptual knowledge: taxonomic and thematic relations. Early research in the 80`s focused on analyzing the existence of a primacy of one kind of conceptual relation over the other in children and adults. Recent studies explore the neuroanatomical bases of these conceptual relations. The present work constitutes a revision of the most relevant studies about taxonomic and thematic conceptual relations, including developmental studies, research on neuroanatomical bases and available ways of assessment. The revised articles state that thematic and taxonomic conceptual relations involve dissociable cognitive processes that can be acquired and damaged independently and have independent neuroanatomical basis. Futures lines of research are also suggested.
PDF (Español (España))


Abernethy, M. & Coney, J. (1993). Semantic and phonemic priming in the cerebral hemispheres. Neuropsychologia, 28(9), 933-945. doi:10.1016/0028-3932(90)90109-2

Annett, M. (1959). The classification of instances of four common class concepts by children and adults. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 29(3), 223-236. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8279.1959.tb01503.x

Barsalou, L. W. (2003). Situated simulation in the human conceptual system. Language and Cognitive Processes, 18, 513-562. doi:10.1080/01690960344000026

Blaye, A. & Jacques, S. (2009). Categorical flexibility in preschoolers: contributions of conceptual knowledge and executive control. Developmental Science, 12(6), 863-873.

Blewitt, P. (1994). Understanding categorical hierarchies: The earliest levels of skill. Child Development, 65, 1279-1298.

Borghi, A. & Caramelli, N. (2003). Situation bounded conceptual organization in children: from action to spatial relations. Cognitive Development, 18, 49-60.

Bouaffre, S. & Faita-Ainseba, F. (2007). Hemispheric differences in the time-course of semantic priming processes: evidence from event-related potentials (ERPs). Brain Cognition, 63, 123-135. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2006.10.006

Bozeat, S., Lambon Ralph, M. A., Patterson, K., Garrard, P., & Hodges, J.R. (2000). Non-verbal semantic impairment in semantic dementia. Neuropsychologia, 38, 1207-15

Cicirelli, V.G. (1976). Categorization behaviour in aging subjects. Journal of Gerontology, 31(6), 676-680. doi:10.1093/geronj/31.6.676

Collins, M. (1999). Differences in semantic category priming in the left and right cerebral hemispheres under automatic and controlled processing conditions. Neuropsychologia, 37, 1071-1085. doi:10.1016/S0028-3932(98)00156-0

Deák, G. & Bauer, P. (1996). The Dynamics of Preschoolers' Categorization Choices. Child Development, 67, 740-767.

Denney, N. W. & Lennon M. L. (1972). Classification: a comparison of middle and old age. Developmental Psychology, 7(2), 210-213. doi:10.1037/h0033005

Estes, Z. & Jones, L. (2009). Integrative priming occurs rapidly and uncontrollably during lexical processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138, 112-130.

Estes, Z., Golonka, S., & Jones, L. (2011). Thematic thinking: The apprehension and consequences of thematic relations. (pp. 249-294). En B. Ross (Ed.), Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Vol. 54. Burlington: Academic Press.

Fernández-Ríos, L. & Buela-Casal, G. (2009). Standards for the preparation and writing of psychology review articles. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 9(2), 329-344.

Ford, R. (2003). Task variations and attention shifts in young children’s category learning. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 27(6), 495-504.

Gardner, H. & Zurif, E. B. (1976). Critical reading of words and phrases in aphasia. Brain and Language, 3, 173-190. doi:10.1016/0093-934X(76)90015-8

Gentner, D. & Brem, S. (1999). Is snow really like a shovel? Distinguishing similarity from thematic relatedness. En M. Hahn & S. C. Stoness (Eds .), Proceedings of the Twenty-first Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 179-184). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Golonka, S. & Estes, Z. (2009). Thematic relations affect similarity via commonalities. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 35, 1454-1464.

Hashimoto, N., McGregor, K., & Graham, A. (2007). Conceptual Organization at 6 and 8 Years of Age: Evidence from the Semantic Priming of Object Decisions. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 50, 161-176.

Howard, D. & Patterson, K. (1992). Pyramids and palm trees: A test of semantic access from picture and words. Thames Valley Publishing Company, Bury St. Edmunds.

Inhelder, B. & Piaget. J. (1967). La génesis de las estructuras lógicas elementales. Buenos Aires: Guadalupe.

Kalénine, S., Peyrin, S., Pichat, C., Segebarth, C., Bonthoux, F., & Baciu, M. (2009). The sensory-motor specificity of taxonomic and thematic conceptual relations: A behavioral and fMRI study. Neuroimage 44, 1152-1162. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.09.043

Khateb, A., Michel, C. M., Pegna, A. J., O’Dochartaigh, S. D., Landis, T., & Annoni, J. M., (2003). Processing of semantic categorical and associative relations: an ERP mapping study. International Journal of Psychophysiology 49, 41-55. doi:10.1016/S0167-8760(03)00076-X

Kotz, S. A., Cappa, S. F., von Cramon, D. Y., & Friederici, A. D. (2002). Modulation of the Lexical–Semantic Network by Auditory Semantic Priming: An Event-Related Functional MRI Study. Neuroimage 17, 1761-1772. doi:10.1006/nimg.2002.1316

Kuchinke, L., van deer Meer, E. & Krueger, F. (2008). Differences in processing of taxonomic and sequential relations in semantic memory: An fMRI investigation. Brain and Cognition 69(2), 245-51. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2008.07.014

Lin, E. & Murphy, G. (2001). Thematic relations in adults’ concepts. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130, 3-28. doi: 10.1037//0096-344.130.1.3

Lucariello, J., Kyratzis, A., & Nelson, K. (1992). Taxonomic Knowledge: What Kind and When? Child Development, 63, 978-998.

Lucariello, J. & Nelson, K. (1985). Slot-filler categories as memory organizers for young children. Developmental Psychology, 21, 272-282.

Luria, A. (1984). Conciencia y lenguaje. Madrid: Visor.

Maintenant, C., Blaye, A., & Paour, J. L. (2011). Semantic Categorical Flexibility and Aging: Effect of Semantic Relations on Maintenance and Switching. Psychology and Aging, 26(2), 461-466. doi:10.1037/a0021686

Maguire, M. J., Brier, M. R., & Ferree, T. C. (2010). EEG theta and alpha responses reveal qualitative differences in processing taxonomic versus thematic semantic relationships. Brain & Language, 114, 16-25. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2010.03.005

Markman, E. (1994). Constraints on word meaning in early language acquisition. Lingua, 92, 199-227.

Markman, E. & Hutchinson, J. (1984). Children’s sensitivity to constraints on word meaning: Taxonomic versus thematic relations. Cognitive Psychology, 16, 1-27.

Martínez-Cuitiño, M. & Barreyro, J. P. (2009). ¿Pirámides y Palmeras o Pirámides y Faraones? Adaptación y validación de un test de asociación semántica al español rioplatense. Revista Interdisciplinaria, 27(2).

Martinez-Cuitiño, M., Barreyro, J.P., & Jaichenco, V. (2009) Adaptación y validación en español de una herramienta de evaluación semántica: la Batería 64. Neuropsicología Latinoamericana, 1(1), 24-31.

Moss, H. E., Hare, M. L., Day, P., & Tyler, L. K. (1994). A distributed memory model of the associative boost in semantic priming. Connection Science, 6(4), 413-427. doi: 10.1080/09540099408915732

Murphy, G. (2002). The big book of concepts. Massachussets: MIT Press.

Nelson, K. (1988). Where do taxonomic categories come from? Human Development, 31, 3-10.

Nguyen, S. & Murphy, G. (2003). An Apple Is More than Just a Fruit: Cross-Classification in Children's Concepts. Child Development, 74, 1783-1806.

Osborne, J., & Calhoun, D. (1998). Themes, taxons, and trial types in children's matching to sample: Methodological considerations. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 68, 35-50.

Pennequin, V., Fontaine, R., Bonthoux, F., Scheuner, N., & Blaye, A. (2006). Categorization deficit in old age: Reality or artefact? Journal of Adult Development, 13, 1-9.

Peraita, H., Diaz, C., & Anlló- Vento, L. (2008). Processing of semantic relations in normal aging and Alzheimer's disease. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 23(1), 33-46. doi: 10.1016/j.acn.2007.09.001

Peraita, H., González-Labra, M.J., Sánchez Bernardos, M.L. y Galeote, M. (2000). Batería de evaluación del deterioro de la memoria semántica en Alzheimer. Psicothema, 12(2), 192-200.

Rizzolatti, G., & Pizzamiglio, L. (1999). Neuropsychology. Introductory concepts. En G. Denes y L. Pizzamiglio (Eds.), Handbook of clinical and experimental neuropsychology. Hove, England: Erlbaum Press.

Sachs, O., Weis, S., Krings, T., Huber, W., & Kircher, T. (2008). Categorical and thematic knowledge representation in the brain: Neural correlates of taxonomic and thematic conceptual relations. Neuropsychologia, 46, 409-418. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.08.015

Sachs, O., Weis, S., Zellagui, N., Huber, W., Zvyagintsev, M., Mathiak, K., & Kircher, T. (2008). Automatic processing of semantic relations in fMRI: Neural activation during semantic priming of taxonomic and thematic categories. Brain Research 1218, 194-205. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2008.03.045

Sass, K., Sachs, O., Krach, S., & Kircher, T. (2009). Taxonomic and thematic categories: Neural correlates of categorization in an auditory-to-visual priming task using fMRI. Brain Research, 1270, 78-87. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.03.013

Semenza, C., Bisiacchi, P., & Romani, L. (1992). Naming disorders and semantic representations. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 21, 349-364.

Semenza, C., Denes, G., Lucchese, D., & Bisiacchi, P. (1980). Selective Deficit of Conceptual Structures in Aphasia: Class versus Thematic Relations. Brain and Language 10, 243-248.

Siaw, S. (1984). Developmental and population comparisons of taxonomic and thematic organization in free recall. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 755-765.

Smiley, S. & Brown, A. (1979). Conceptual preference for thematic or taxonomic relations: A nonmonotonic age trend from preschool to old age. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 28, 249-257.

Vivas, L. (2012). Procesamiento de Relaciones Conceptuales en Pacientes con Lesiones Neurológicas Focales. Salamanca: Editorial Universidad de Salamanca.

Waxman, S. & Namy, L. (1997). Challenging the notion of a thematic preference in young children. Developmental Psychology, 33, 555-567.

Wisniewski, E. & Bassok, M. (1999). What makes a man similar to a tie? Stimulus compatibility with comparison and integration. Cognitive Psychology, 39(3-4), 208-238.



Download data is not yet available.